Posts Tagged ‘Jan Hogarth’

‘If we did something’ on 14 Feb 2018

February 5, 2018

James Wyness has invited Jan Hogarth, John Wallace and me to join him for If we did something at The Stove in Dumfries on 14 Feb 10.00-16.00. This is part of his project If we do nothing. You are invited too.

An open gathering, a meeting of minds from the artistic, scientific, academic, engineering and civic communities, to design and plan a series of future symposiums on eco-art, the aesthetics of sustainability, resilience and emergence.

We seek your input in designing future symposiums for the mid to long term, developing new research and artistic production, addressing the fragmentation of human understanding across ecosystems thinking, climate change, adaptation and sustainability.

All welcome.

Questions can be directed to James here.

Tim Ingold, the noted anthropologist, recently said,

But while mainstream science continues to think of art as a medium for the communication of its own findings, it is now art, rather than science, that is leading the way in promoting radical ecological awareness. This awareness rests on an acknowledgement of what we owe, for our very existence, to the world we seek to know and of which we are necessarily part. As such, it should come in before science rather than after it. The purpose of art, then, is not to communication science but to investigate its conditions of possibility.

Jan, John, James and I have been having a conversation by email in preparation for the event.

In particular we have been talking about the fragmentation of understanding and whether some forms of knowledge are ‘incommensurable’ (a word James introduced) with others. For example, is knowledge in the form of data, which dominates the sciences, translatable or relatable to storytelling and lived experience on the land? Is this important? John’s work with Prof Pete Smith including the film installation The Same Hillside (discussed here) is storytelling in response to scientific modelling.

Read more of James’ thinking on complexity here.

Jan has been asking us to think more carefully about ‘permission’ and how we behave in the world. If we accept that everything is living and we give the same respect to non-human living things that we give to humans, what does that mean? Jan says we should ask permission of the spring to take water. You can find out more about Jan’s Quests and Retreats here.

I recently gave a presentation on transdisciplinarity and have begun to get to grips with Basarab Nicolescu’s concept of ‘different levels of reality’. He says, “I maintain that two levels of Reality are different if the passage from one to the other involves a breakdown of laws and a breakdown of fundamental concepts.” which sounds like incommensurability to me.

Environmental Art Festival Scotland 2015: what is art and ecology?

August 27, 2015
EAFS.  Photo Colin Tennant

EAFS. Photo Colin Tennant

The creative team at EAFS needed help this year and ecoartscotland provided some editorial support for the newspaper and an essay on art and ecology as voluntary contributions.  EAFS is an incredibly important development in Scotland (as was the UNFIX festival this year, also delivered by voluntary effort).  The essay below attempts to highlight some of the different ways of working that characterise ‘art and ecology’ practices.

Art and Ecology or “the context is half the work”

By Chris Fremantle with input from Ann T Rosenthal.

Landscape painting represents or idealizes ‘nature,’ usually by depicting wide vistas, such as seascapes, forests, and countrysides. Sometimes it also brings attention to the human impact on the land, such as wilderness vs. settlement. Given the environmental challenges we face today, however, environmental art goes beyond representation or even witnessing changes in the land to effect social change through raising awareness and/or actually restoring damaged landscapes. Some of the ways environmental art differs from more traditional art forms, like landscape painting, are discussed below.

Considering art made or in progress by artists who work with environments or ecosystems, there are a few key things to consider, such as whether the project is reflective, awareness-raising or interventionist. You’ll find various things called ecoartxxx but, unlike Young British Artists, such as Damien Hirst, this isn’t about individualism or celebrities.

So, what are some of the things that might characterise artists working with ecologies?

Context – this might be ‘place’ or ‘issue’, though in the interesting projects these are deeply bound together. The issue might be the deep experience of a place and its effect on a person. Personally I find Hamish Fulton’s piece NO TALKING: seven days walking in the Cairngorms (1988) to be a very personal provocation – could I not talk for seven days? The issue might be storm surges and their impact on coastlines. Eve Mosher was featured in The New Yorker because she had marked a high water line on parts of New York (2007). When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012 the debris marked the same line. Everyone was amazed that an artist had predicted the impact of an extreme weather event. The context might be a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest. The Collins and Goto Studio have been working in the Blackwood of Rannoch (2012-ongoing) to imagine a future of eco-cultural well-being where the forest’s beauty and biodiversity become an icon for a different Scottish landscape.

Interdisciplinarity is often another central characteristic. Artists are using methods and processes that are selected based on the idea/issue/context rather than the skill they were taught at art school. Don’t get me wrong, if you ask the right questions you’ll find that what the artists learnt at art school is still fundamental to their practice. But whether in deep durational collaborations or in short interactions, artists working with environments and ecologies learn and use the knowledge and practices of natural and social sciences, read and seek to influence policy, work in teams and maintain relationships. The quality of interdisciplinarity is perhaps in the seemlessness of what results, such as with Cinema Sark in EAFS 2013 where Pete Smith, Professor of Soil and Plant Science, and John Wallace, film-maker, explored the ecosystem of the river Sark in a work that was at once excellent science and compelling film.

Education and volunteering is a common characteristic of those projects focused on awareness-raising and intervention. It is important to understand that this aspect of practice is not separate from the process of making the art, not ‘outreach’ once the art has been made – rather it must be understood to be intrinsic.

Novelty is less important than sharing. Iterating and the commons are recurrent themes. All of the characteristics noted above (context/issue, interdisciplinarity and education and volunteering) militate against that particular art world requirement for constant newness. In the art world too often the focus is on new things, whereas ecoart is more often about new understandings and revealing experiences of the world around us (and our place or impact within it). More specifically documentation of environmental and ecological projects often takes the form of action guides, sets of instructions, or toolkits. We can recognise the aesthetic of artists, but when groups in Miami (2013) and Bristol (2014) did versions of Eve Mosher’s High Water Line, it wasn’t a breach of copyright – in fact she celebrates it. They used the Action Guide produced by Mosher working with ecoartspace.

Leaving the world a better place than you found it might be an overarching concern. This is more radical that it might sound when you consider that the archetype of the ‘reckless, hedonistic and art for arts sake artist’ has been pervasive for the last century anyway. John Thackara suggested that we live between on the one hand the despair at the scale of the crisis and the complexity of the challenges, and on the other hand the hope in the multitude of examples of grassroots activism, but he also commented that ‘don’t be evil’ is not enough. We have to act in ways to leave things better than we find them as we move through the world.


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